Finding the right stuff


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – To effectively improve the health of people and the delivery of health care, you don’t need everything – just the right things.

    That is the premise behind the keynote address at Research!Louisville, to be presented at 1 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30, by Clay B. Marsh, M.D., vice president and executive dean of health sciences at West Virginia University. Admission is free to the event which will be held in Rooms 101/102 of the Kosair Charities Clinical & Translational Research Building at the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center, 505 S. Hancock St.

    Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Research!Louisville is an annual conference that highlights research conducted by the institutions in the Louisville Medical Center. Research!Louisville will be held Oct. 27-30 in several locations in the medical center area.

    Marsh will present “Leveraging Nature to Create an Anti-Fragile Health Care System: From Black Swans to the Marines.” His address will focus on issues uncovered in the asymmetry found in complex systems, or as author Malcolm Gladwell postulated in his 2002 book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, the Law of the Few.

    Gladwell noted that achieving a result – such as making something go viral – requires “connectors,” or people who know many others; “mavens,” people who know the best things; and “salespeople,” people who try things first. With the right grouping of connectors, mavens and salespeople, you don’t need to involve everyone, just the “right” ones to achieve your result.

    “This Law of the Few extends to all systems in nature,” Marsh said. “Only a few elements out of many are most important. In health, for example, although a complex series of events define every individual’s health status, one very simple approach is to examine the natural process that makes each of us less healthy: aging.

    “In this paradigm, the things that indicate a lower biological age improve health. Things that indicate an elevated biological age decrease health.” From that perspective, Marsh said, we can identify those behaviors and activities that foster health and wellness.

    Marsh will discuss how the Law of the Few also can help lead to novel designs in new health care systems that both learn from and meet the needs of people. Health care providers are advised to create systems that embrace and benefit from volatility, and change the model of care from an emphasis on disease to one on health.

    “By identifying the key elements that identify health – what it means to be a healthy person – we begin to know how to create the social systems needed to nudge behavior to health and measure it at a personal level,” he said.

    Research!Louisville is sponsored by the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center, University of Louisville Hospital/KentuckyOne Health, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation/KentuckyOne Health and Norton Healthcare.

    For the full schedule of presentations, go

    Jill Scoggins is Director of Communications at UofL's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She has been at UofL since 2010.